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Baseball ecology: Searching for the nature of the game in seasons and stories

Devon Michele Niebling, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Ecology is defined as the study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. Remarkable are the connections, the intricate life patterns tied to the land and seasons. Baseball, with its spaces, characters, stories, and nature is at the center of its own ecosystem. A game of details contained within a ballpark, baseball is also a story with roots in solitude and community, oral and written lessons, time and systems. Like nature's ecosystems, baseball is itself an unceasing plot, a web, with extensions reaching out to generations and back again, to home plate. ^ With this project I take up the life, the nature of baseball, and attempt to work down past baseball as play, to the layers of baseball's simplest elements. I want to know if baseball, big business aside, matters. What stories are contained within the elements themselves, the white ash bats, the clay, dirt, leather gloves, the ball, the grass, the fans, the players, and the writers? ^ With the ecocritical theories of William Howarth and Cheryl Glotfelty in mind, as well as David Voigt's invocation of the phrase “modern ballpark ecology,” I expose the natural layers in W. P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe and The Thrill of the Grass, Bernard Malamud's The Natural, and Don DeLillo's Pafko at the Wall. Against the literary undercurrent, I trace the game's extensions. Knowing the extensions of the game is to study the grain of a bat as it comes off the line at the Louisville Slugger Museum, feel the cracked lines and folds of an aged ball glove, and hear the murmurs of a crowd on a hot, summer afternoon. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|Literature, American|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Niebling, Devon Michele, "Baseball ecology: Searching for the nature of the game in seasons and stories" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3055284.